Following the sale of her family business Vado to Norcros Group, former director Sarah Williams decided to launch her own bathroom brand Armera. Focusing on bricks and mortar showrooms and upper-level contracts, she says it provides consumers with “affordable luxury”.
Q: What made you take the decision to leave Vado and launch your own brand Armera?
A: Having sold Vado in 2013, I gradually exited the business to spend time with our three young children whilst also furthering my training and experience in Interior Design.
My continued passion in product design and interiors has led me to develop a portfolio of co-ordinated and precision-designed bathroomware which have been specifically tooled for the UK market.
Bringing this exciting brand to market, coupled with the opportunity to work with some of the best people in the industry, has seen the creation of Armera.
It is a company set up to support the bricks and mortar retail showrooms and the upper level of the contracts market.
Q: Where did the name come from and how long did it take to realise your ambition of Armera from a concept to reality?
A: The name Armera is Swedish and means “armour, protection, strength” and so it directly relates to our “protection strategy” to support bricks & mortar businesses.
I looked to the Nordic countries for inspiration as they are worldwide renown for designer homeware.
At a consumer level, it also reflects on our product quality promise as we provide the most robust quality in our products.
Armera has an attractive sound and striking shape with the book-ended symmetry of the AR- and its reflection -RA, all subtle but important elements for an interiors brand.
Q: Can you explain about your ‘protection strategy’ for bricks and mortar showrooms, particularly against online?
A: The purpose and strategy of Armera is first and foremost to sell through the retailers who have bricks and mortar showrooms.
We know that our products are best sold in a physical environment where customers can really appreciate the quality differential, the design detail and understand technical features.
You can only do this effectively by touching, feeling, and operating the product.
It is also best appreciated when a qualified and trained showroom sales/designer can explain the differences and properly talk to their customer with the product in front of them. It is impossible to do that online.
I have seen multiple times within building projects, the wrong product getting purchased for the wrong job, because the product choice has not been done in conjunction with certain physical factors.
A few examples from within bathrooms include location of the soil pipe, boxing-in considerations for choosing the WC type and back shape, height of windows for cistern choice, water pressure for brassware choice, and so on.
The customer could desire a certain look but that may not suite the physicality of the room. That requires the input and management by the showroom/surveyor to get it right.
Get it wrong, and it just results in a disappointed end customer, and a lot of waste in the supply chain with returned partially damaged product.
We do have a few unique solutions up our sleeve for these instances because we understand the issues that arise and, again, we can give a personalised service to adapting products to suit a particular physical space.
We want our sales process, via our partners, to be a completely informed and a properly specified process suitable for the physical environment.
We are therefore supporting this physical retail route to market so that everyone, including the end customer, are protected from mistakes that can happen if the product and design is not fully married together.
Q: Why did you choose to launch a complete bathroom brand, as opposed to being a vertical/niche supplier?
A: Everything we do is about making things easier for customers, both our retail customers and end consumers.
We supply a one-place solution to choose a complete coordinated bathroom. Feedback shows this benefit is being felt already, retailers and plumbers are saying their customers are loving the ease of having everything in one brochure. Every attention is paid to this design detail.
By providing a more concise portfolio, with the options available to personalise, consumers can make sense of the options and choose whilst enjoying the process.
As a consumer myself, and also with my interior design hat on, sometimes the confusing offerings can be overwhelming and you end up feeling lost between the copious options.
We want retailers, plumbers, designers, specifiers to all enjoy the process of using our products when designing bathroom interiors.
Q: What is your current product offer and what consumer segment are you targeting?
A: Armera offers coordinated furniture, ceramic basins and WCs, concealed cisterns and flush plates, taps, showers and accessories.
The furniture offering has two main ranges with six finish options, cabinet and countertop basins with real quartz counter-tops.
There are two families of toilets incorporating wall-hung, back-to-wall and close coupled.
There are four finish options across the brassware and coordinating accessories, including brushed black, brushed gold, brushed stainless steel in addition to chrome, along with the option to match with overflow rings, hinge cover caps, flush plates, and furniture handles.
The consumer segment appropriate for our products is anyone looking for the latest in bathroomware on-point to the latest interiors, that are robust, well-engineered and priced affordably.
Armera provides affordable luxury brought to market with commercial awareness, making designer-level products more accessible.
Q: How are your plans progressing building your retail network?
A: We will supply an exclusive customer retail base to give geographical exclusivity and to work closely with our customers.
We will gradually build a selective distribution club in bathroom retail, supporting bricks and mortar showrooms.
We are not aiming to deal with everyone and understand that some very successful retailers may not be right for our business.
We need a mutual relationship, where we make a difference to our customers and matter to them, so the balance of size and commitment is important when considering who to bring into the Armera distribution club.
We are most interested in the close relationships, where there is equal business benefit to us and customer.
We are not chasing turnover or under pressure to hit any targets. Armera is an owner-managed business, and we can control and make decisions based on longer-term business sense, and even “gut feel” dare I say it!
This is an important building philosophy of ARMERA, it is not about hitting ratios to please other external stakeholders (as we do not have any), it is about enjoying work, enjoying the people we work with, and providing beautifully designed bathrooms that are loved by the customers and consumers as much as they are by us.
We firmly believe that by working together in this way, we will be significant in size and scale in the retail industry.
It is not about numbers of customers, it’s about doing the right things with a smaller number of customers, helping us all thrive well together as true partners.
We will build the business and grow with more people, investing only in the highest calibre who will fit our philosophy in the way we work with customers and suppliers.